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Bicycles, motorways and home

The Boyfriend doesn’t think heather is beautiful. We’ve survived our contrasting opinion on dishwashers, so far, but the Boyfriend’s lack of awe at the stunning and most beautiful countryside—Yorkshire—is frankly problematic.

I was considering calling here home. And then I went back North, and I remembered what home feels like. It’s not Oxfordshire green (or golden brown as the fields now are). It’s a feeling. As I’m driving up the M1, the countryside changes colour. Still green, still beautiful, just a slightly different shade. And my heart tingles.

Then I realise I’m stuck on the M1 driving into a 50 mph zone and I’m going to be there an age.

And I’m not saying that I dislike this southern sort of beauty; it’s like a children’s picture book. It’s just not as good as the North.

Despite his aversion to the bleak grim north (he’s a southerner), the Boyfriend was very excited about last weekend’s adventure up the country. The drive took over 6 hours, but we were heading to the marvel which was the Tour de France –Yorkshire edition. A bike race where some very good bikes were raced by men with some very serious legs that make the Boyfriend look a bit wimpy.

He likes bikes, both with and without engines. Two road bikes live at our house, whilst two mountain bikes and one with a motor are at his parents’. Having spent quite so much time in his company, I’ve picked up some bike knowledge.

For example, when battling a grimy oily bike chain, use disposable gloves. That white handle bar tape gets dirty quickly (he said it was a bad idea to begin with, but he likes having a shiny bike, whereas I like people to believe I use my bike). I also know there’s a screw to be adjusted as your brake pads get worn. That brake pads need replacing every now and again. That it’s unusual to have severely more worn back breaks than front breaks. And that I brake wrong.

Woman on bicycle doodle

But when the sun is shining, your gears are aligned so that they switch fluidly,  and the hills are challenging but you’re confident that you’ve got the strength to get home (or to work), cycling is pretty amazing.

And whilst I still think cyclists are crazy, I’m slightly addicted too.

The next step is to try my bike in the north…

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The new house: It’s not a hovel, but what is it?

poppy field

The Boyfriend’s mother thinks opium. I’m thinking seeds for scattering on top of bread rolls.

The Mother requested a blog post. I pointed out that since I hadn’t had the internet for over a month, posting was a challenge. Especially mixed in with all the activity that comes with a new house – like rushing out on your lunch break to get a kitchen bin, or wood-glue.

I’m also uncertain what to call the new house. Hovel summed up my previous home rather well. With the new house I’m struggling. Barn? Stable? Annex? No word seems quite right. In fact the word I’m using is home.

It’s a small house. So small that the Boyfriend quite often walks into the ceiling. I’m not rich, the Boyfriend is not much richer than I, and property here doesn’t come cheap. My inner Yorkshire frugal heart – the one that puts equal onion to mince in bolognaise – quivers at the thought of money in these southern extremes.

It’s also quite isolated. The hovel was rural enough that there were no street lights, but when you stepped onto pavement (with your torch) along the roadside, which itself was big enough for two cars to pass, either way you turned you’d find a pub. Step out in any direction from the new house, and what you find is field, behind which is field. Occasionally there’s a gathering of trees, but mostly the view is field.

We do have neighbours. Those who live in the other converted farm buildings. And our neighbours aren’t lacking in character. In fact the dangerous part in asking to borrow a drop of milk or an egg, is that you’d likely spend as much time listening to a splurge of conversation as it would take to bike into the nearest village and buy your eggs or milk. Probably the time it would take to have a shower too.

The new house does have some history. Before the Hovel was the Hovel, I suspect it was a garage. Before the new house was habitable by humans, it was where the sheep were kept. I’m not convinced a sheep themed name would fit the new house either.

The hovel felt pitied. Its yellow and green flowery tiled floor was worrying. The lime green blind in the kitchen was the best part of the decoration. In other words, entirely not like the new house which is tastefully put together. Simple. White walls, white ceiling, and pale, nondescript tiles on the kitchen and bathroom floors. Boring you could say. Problematic you could say if your eyesight isn’t good enough to notice where the wall becomes the ceiling…

But that’s fine, because I come with stuff. Lots of stuff. Enough stuff to add character.

What we’re missing now is the internet. It’s an overly complicated process. Installing the phone line took the phone line technician multiple days. But once we do have the internet, then the Mother can have her updates back. In the meantime, she’s just going to have to call my mobile.

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A very small post.

This is going to be a very small post, mostly because I’m writing it on a very small screen.

Today I shall move house. As you can imagine, the hovel looks chaotic. I have so much stuff! Although apparently relatively few clothes. The bags of books to clothes ratio currently stands at 10:1.

What happens regarding the internet remains a mystery. It may, or may not, be a while…

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An embarrassment and an addiction to self evaluation

Doodle - Life choices

The photo

Last Friday I had my photo taken. Considering that my body was insisting that I should crawl into bed – two hours before, I’d collapsed in the middle of the office corridor – the photo doesn’t look too bad. It’s professionally taken. The angles are good. Yes my eyes are typically asymmetrical, but that’s because I’m made that way and is no failing of the photographer.

Imperfection in my features isn’t a problem. What is, is that my picture looks like a school photo, minus the tie. I write about some serious grown-up topics at work. Often whilst sat at my desk with my legs tucked up beneath me (because I’m bad), typing with one hand whilst the other cradles my Hello Kitty mug. Last week I caught myself sucking my thumb – which just goes to show how tired I was.

It’s not a complaint that I look so young, just an observation.

I came across an article today, written about young woman who has better electronics skills than I do. It worries me how long it took me to accept the story. The picture didn’t match my understandng of a genius physicist, it was of a girl.

[The original article I read wasn’t this article, and only had a photo of Eesha Khare, but I’ve lost it to the internet.]

I’m five years older than the woman in question. I’ve earnt my physics degree. I even surpassed the expectations of both my electronics professor and myself by getting a high first in his module. Yet, despite this, on first impression of Eesha Khare my brain couldn’t process her identity as the inventor of a super capacitor.

Just like my brain rejects the idea that I can understand electronics. I state that I can do electronics like it’s a joke. It’s that same feeling as I have to my current photo, me, 23 looking 13, isn’t suitable for association with the serious grown-up work I’m doing.

Woman on bicycle doodle

Stressful thoughts

I’m guessing that my body’s moment of not working on Friday was stress related. I’m assuming, yes blindly, that my whole medical dilemma is stress triggered. You can call it a hypothesis.

Such moments happen when I’m internally exhausted. I’d slept for an average of 9 hours each night for the week preceding the embarrassment and on Saturday night I had just under 14 hours.

But what could be stressing me? There’s leaving the Hovel and moving house, but why would I worry about that? I’m moving in with the boyfriend, but I like him and he can do the washing-up. We’re going to have some issues, mostly regarding music and the radio (he abhors silence), but I’m sure he’ll learn to appreciate music all the more for having less of it.

Maybe it’s the inevitable point in my contract at work where suggestions of a new contract are implied and a discussion date is set, 4th June. I originally applied and took the job because I decided that I needed to get a job. Some thought went into it. The role isn’t physics, it allows me to learn to write better and it was in the right place. Why they chose me I’m not sure.

To my shock, I found I actually rather like the company. I like the people I work with. I like the work.

But, and there’s always a but, is staying settling? Is settling necessarily bad?

If I looked elsewhere where would I look?

Running between mountains doodle.

The actionable list

Lists are great things. I ask a question to myself. What would I do if I had no limitation of resource.

In no particular order…

1. I’d write stories. I’d start with my Ancient Egyptian novel and work on it until I was happy. People can say let go, but if I had no limitations I’d keep it until I wanted to let go. I’d tinker away and I’d play.

2. I’d study quantum mechanics. I know this sounds crazy, and probably most crazy of all to myself, but I love quantum mechanics. In my degree studying it always was rather rushed, but there’s something in the way it fits together that is truly magical.

3. I’d travel. I’d walk up small mountains and trek through forests. I’d sit and eat ice-cream with the elderly in the sunshine whilst watching children play across the square. I’d test myself. Go places my imagination is to tame to dream of.

4. I’d paint. For hours. In the middle of the night or the early hours of the morning and allow myself to be absorbed in what I was creating without worrying that I ought to be doing something more productive.

5. I’d have a moonshot*. A crazy idea to pursue with all likelihood of failure but the faintest glimmer of possibility.

6. I’d have amazing parties for all the people I love – cocktails and barbecues in the great British summer, sledge rides and northern light hunting in the depths of the Norwegian winter with a Christmas turkey and lots of cranberry sauce.

7. I’d do stuff to help people. I’d give my time, I’d find people I could help by applying my brain to their problems. I’d go out of my way to make people’s faces light up with wonder.

 

It’s irresponsible to cause alarm from the floor in the middle of the office corridor. It’s not dignified. My life needs a better routine. I need a more normal sleep pattern that leaves me with time in the day where I have energy, but I’m not at work.

I’m not sure how to go about this.

Is the underlying stress just this introspective wondering about my future and my self-worth?

What am I truly chasing? Am I open to a future filled with possibilities, or is it that I’m too scared to close some down in order to move forward? I can’t ghost write my life. That girl staring back at me in the photograph might look young and naïve, but she is me. The authentic, real me who is clever. She can write about complex serious topics, she does understand enough physics that she earnt a degree in the subject and she’s more than adequately skilled with a soldering iron.

Why is that so damn difficult to accept?

 

 

 

*Moonshots are what Google calls its really crazy long-term, high-impact projects.

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The selfish Kate and the concientious Midget

People are selfish. The Midget takes issue with this. In her mind, there’s something evil about being selfish.

I thrive on selfishness.

Ok, so maybe the Midget is one of the most conscientious people around, and yes, maybe on one or more occasion I have been called manipulative. Mind you, that’s mostly by the Midget, and only really when her ideals don’t align with mine.

But selfishness helps me stay happy. And whilst my happiness is a very selfish need, it affects those condemned to work beside me, or those whose genes I share. Plus there’s the dear darling Boyfriend who suffers greatly if I’m a moping mess.

Selfishness allows me to say no. Since I am first, my time is organised to my priorities.

Flying carpet doodle

Meditation – another selfish habit.

Selfish but kind

But just because I’m selfish doesn’t mean I’m unkind. The only person I’ve ever intentionally hurt was the Midget, and that was 15 years ago and so doesn’t really count. No. On the contrary to being selfishly unkind, I go out of my way to be selfishly kind. I’m happy to invest the hours in obtaining good company. For the most part the hours pay off.

I’m safe because I know that I have a multitude of friends that I can fall back on.

If I was truly altruistic wouldn’t I be hunting down the person in the world most in need of a friend, and giving them someone to talk to? Instead I invest my time in people I like and who have lots to give me in return.

The Noph is my sound box, a conscience that sits on the sofa beside me letting my introspective meanderings flourish whilst always pulling me, ever so gently, back to reality. Rapunzel is an inspiration. A flash of colour always reminding me that doing what I want to do is the key to happiness. Singing stood on a chair whilst perfectly sober and perfectly out of tune isn’t just a dreadful racket, but also a wonder of humanity. And yet, Rapunzel and the Noph also remind me that hard work, the washing-up and work is all very, very necessary. Sometimes I need reminding.

All my relationships are selfish. But just because my primary goal is my happiness, doesn’t mean I don’t have secondary goals. I believe that we’re foremost responsible for our own happiness. Whilst I can’t make any of my loved ones happy by myself, I can support them in being happy. It’s in my best interest that my friends are happy.

Selfish but generous

All this selfishness leads me to question why I volunteer. If you volunteer yourself, you probably find the question rhetorical. For me, life is a search for meaning. When I volunteer I have an effect. I mean something to someone. It’s particularly evident when I work with kids – it’s painted in their faces that I mean something. I have the power to help and volunteering takes this power and translates it into action. Actions that build my confidence. It’s a repeated idea that the giver often gains more happiness than the receiver.

Doodle a day 27 March

Work sometimes feels like this.

Selfish but hard-working

Then there is work. I guess I have always had a lot of hostility towards this idea of work. Engaging my brain throughout the best part of five days a week, every week for a company… It sounds like a lot of effort just for some pennies. I get it being necessary. I do. But even so. 40 hours?

Yet work can be rewarding. I love learning and in my job I’m always learning. I’m building a skill set which makes me more employable and better equipped to help those I want to help. I love writing, and my writing is flourishing. I’m also making a difference. Ok, yes it’s within a company, but the company’s values are aligned with my own.

My selfish heart wishes that the 40 hours were a little less rigid. Some days I just want to go to a beach. But most days I roll back into the hovel feeling that I’ve done something productive, and that makes me feel good.

Selfish but unashamed

So yes, I lead a selfish life. One which at its core is kindness, because I need kindness for my happiness, and the sharing of my time and skills, because I need to be valued. Thinking about it, it’s not evil at all.

Nothing at all to be ashamed of.

Would you, like the Midget, disagree?

 

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Dreaming dreams and catching them: life after The Hovel

lark rise Either the boyfriend has prospects, or I’m crazy. Not just because I spend my time loving him, but because we’re going to be living in the same building, again. This time, there won’t be six of us, there’ll be two. Me and him.

The Mother is referring to these living arrangements as ‘living in sin’, but she seems more excited at the prospect of a new house to visit than concerned that I’m being corrupted.

There are pros and cons to this new arrangement. Of course if you know me well the first wonderful thing you’ll think of will be that there will be someone else to do my washing-up, every night. Sure he’ll be tired from playing with boats, but if he has the energy for all those press-ups, he’s got enough energy for the crockery. Since the Boyfriends stinky clothes are currently rotating around my washing machine I’m sure everything will end up fair (ish). Less fortunate is that it’s a longer journey to work. Either Bertie (my car) and I will be causing further damage the planet, or I’m going to be incredibly fit.

I do love the planet. I also love sleep.

It will be sad saying goodbye to The Hovel. It filled its purpose in life quite amicably and I shall remember it fondly. The deer I’m going to miss terribly, but the new home is also hidden away in the middle of nowhere, even more so than The Hovel, and I’m sure there will still be wild wonders.

I’m going to have a garden. This means I need to learn to grow a plant. This is exciting. There’s also going to be a separate bedroom (there’s multiple floors) and so less breakfast in bed. But it’s slightly more suitable for guests as long as you don’t mind the Boyfriend creeping past in the early hours to go row.

A year ago, I knew where it was I wanted to go. I knew the plan was to eventually move south, as I did, get a job, which I’ve got, and live with the Boyfriend, which is imminent. I wasn’t sure how everything was going to tie together. Sometimes when we weren’t seeing each other for 7 or 8 weeks at a time (and longer when I was in Italy) it seemed like life was a tangle of frayed ends. Now it feels organised. Structured even.

It didn’t take that long really for the dream to seem everyday and normal.

Dreams are simply long-term plans. Nothing set in stone. Flexible, adaptable, but maybe achievable. Whether the Boyfriend does or doesn’t have prospects is truly a question belonging to one of my long-dead great-grandmothers. And she’s not here to asses him and let me know. What I do know is that for right now, he’s enough for me. The future is simply a dream.

The ongoing road

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